How to actually make your life count (and not just pretend it does)

life-word-press
I’ve been doing some research on how to make our lives count. Here are some thoughts…

OUR LONGING FOR PURPOSE

Consider the following hypothetical scenario created by philosopher Robert Nozick…

Imagine there was a machine that could make us feel as if we are completely in love and unconditionally loved at the same time. You would not know that you are hooked up to the machine. It would feel as real and be as believable as the actual experience. Would you be truly happy if you were hooked up to this machine for the rest of your life?

Most of us would say no, because although we may have an extremely positive experience, there is something in us that still longs for meaning.

Tal Ben-Shahar says: “Given the choice between a machine-generated feeling that we had brought about world peace and a less powerful feeling derived from actually helping one person, we would most likely choose the latter. It is as if we have an internal mechanism that demands more than the present sensation that we feel–we need the cause of our emotions to be meaningful. We want to know that our actions have an actual effect in the world, not just that we feel that they do”.

SO HOW DO WE FIND OUR MEANING & PURPOSE IN LIFE?

TWO STEPS…
#1 Figure out what you’ve been designed to do
#2 Align it with a purpose greater than yourself

purpose-diagram

If you set out to do something that you haven’t been designed to do, it will lead to FAILURE.
If you don’t pursue a purpose greater than yourself, it will lead to EMPTINESS.
But if you can find a way to align what you’ve been designed to do with a purpose greater than yourself, it will lead to FULFILLMENT.

STEP #1 – FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DESIGNED TO DO

Rick Warren says… “Some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly. Each animal has a particular role to play based on the way they were shaped. The same is true with humans. Each of us was uniquely designed…to do certain things… You are unique, wonderfully complex, a composite of many different factors… When your gifts don’t meet the role you play in life, you feel like a square peg in a round hole. This is frustrating, both to you and to others. Not only does it produce limited results, it is also an enormous waste of your talents, time, and energy”

DEVELOP AND FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS…

Suppose we consider a number of different areas of competence. These might include ‘People Skills’, ‘Writing’, ‘Problem Solving’, ‘Musical Talent’, ‘Physical Coordination’, ‘Artistic Ability’, etc. And we give each of these areas a score out of ‘10’, based on our natural ability.

Strengths Bar Graph 1

And because most of us are only naturally good at a few things, we then highlight our natural strengths…

Strengths Bar Graph 2

Now according to thirty years of research conducted by Gallup, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to go from a ‘2’ to a ‘10’. But we can go from an ‘8’ to a ‘10’, or a ‘7’ to a ‘9’. The key to being successful is to pick those top 3 or 4 areas and develop them.

Strengths Bar Graph 3

Once we do this, the key to being successful is to try and orchestrate our lives so that at least 80% of our time is spent working in these areas of strength.

STEP #2 – ALIGN IT WITH A PURPOSE GREATER THAN YOURSELF

During World War II, there were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp in Hungary, that were forced to work in a factory. The allies came along, bombed that factory and blew it apart. So the prisoners had nothing to do. The Nazi soldiers had the prisoners take all the rubble and dirt of that factory and move it to another field. The next day, they had them take that same rubble and move it back in reverse. The next day, they had to take that stuff and move it back and day after day they had no meaning, no purpose. It was just work doing the same thing over and over with no meaning and no purpose. They were just moving dirt piles.

Then something strange began to happen. The prisoners began to go crazy. They began to lose their will to live because there was no meaning, no purpose in their work. They were just moving bricks and dirt back and forth, back and forth. Many of them began to throw themselves in front of the guards trying to get shot. In essence, they were trying to commit suicide because death was preferable to living without meaning. Death was preferable to just moving dirt piles.

IT’S NOT ENOUGH TO BE SUCCESSFUL

Life Way Research recently conducted a survey to find out how often people think about their meaning and purpose in life. The data showed that this is a significant issue for majority of the population…

Purpose Diagram 2

This equates to…

Purpose Diagram 3

LIVING A LIFE WITHOUT REGRET…

In another survey, a group of people 90 years or older were asked: “If you had your life to live over again, what would you do differently?” The three most common responses were: Risk more, Reflect more, and Live for things that would go on after I die.

If we want to live a life without regret, if we want to experience life to the full, then we are going to need to move from success to significance. We are going to have to find a way to align what we’ve been designed to do, with a purpose greater than ourselves.

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